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Suicide Affects Everyone – Let’s Talk About It! (With Children and Adolescents)

By Jacquie Rahm, CCLS, CTRS-C, YMHFA

By middle school, children are likely to have experience with behavioral health and suicidality, either directly or indirectly through peers, their community, or the media (University of Utah, 2022). Despite what some may think, exposure to such topics does not increase risk for suicidality, but actually is very beneficial for prevention, building resilience, and encouraging seeking support (CHOC, 2023; The Sharing Place).

Talking about sensitive topics and being vulnerable is difficult for all involved, especially when the child is embarrassed, worried about getting in trouble, or doesn’t have the words or knowledge to express and/or understand what they are experiencing. Open and honest conversations about difficult topics, ideally before personal experience by the child, shows it is safe to talk and ask questions about, reducing misunderstandings and feelings of isolation or judgement, ensuring knowledge of how to respond and where to go for help if needed, and fostering a sense of trust and support within the relationship (University of Utah, 2022). This significantly increases child comfort in sharing their own thoughts, experiences, and potential warning signs for behavioral health needs.

Here are some simple steps to start introducing the concepts of behavioral health and suicide to children:

1. Regularly check in.
2. Discuss big emotions.
3. Label important terms.
4. Discuss how to support others.
5. Explore what a child might do if they experience suicidality.
6. Discuss safe adults.

To learn more about suicide prevention in children and adolescents, check out our #ChildLife Blog series on Suicide Prevention Month.


University of Utah (2022, September 6). How to talk to your child about suicide: An age-by-age guide.

CAMH (n.d.). When a parent dies by suicide: What kids want to know.

CHOC (2023, August 31). Suicide prevention conversation starters for parents.

The Sharing Place (n.d.). Explaining suicide to children.

Child Life Profession